The White House launched its Joining Forces campaign Tuesday to encourage Americans from all segments of society to extend a helping hand to military families. First lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, will spearhead the project, spending the next two days traveling around the country to broaden awareness about Joining Forces and elicit support from communities and businesses.
“We’re hitting the road. Yes, Michelle and Jill on a road trip,” Obama said in remarks delivered from the filled-to-capacity East Room of the White House. “I think Jill is going to drive. We’re going to be traveling throughout the country, celebrating the service of military families and the communities, and nonprofits and businesses.”
Obama and Biden have spent much of the past few years listening to military families about their challenges and have based the initiative’s priorities on what they heard. It will include a public awareness campaign to highlight the service of military families, which Obama said is “the first step in taking action.” Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and other celebrities are going to appear in public service announcements, and major entertainment guilds have agreed to tell the stories of military families.
The campaign will also focus on employment, education and wellness, particularly mental health.
Several major corporations have signed on to help connect military spouses and veterans with employers. Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft are offering training to spouses in new technologies so they can use their new skills to open their own businesses. Sears, Kmart and Sam’s Club have said that they would try to provide military spouses who work for them with jobs in different locations if they have to move to a new duty station. In addition, the program calls for states and local governments to offer extra support to military children to relieve the stress associated with transferring schools and anxiety about a parent away at war.
Every American has something to offer, Obama said, whether it’s mowing a lawn or lending a hand to a wounded veteran.
“If you ask any military family they will tell you sometimes it’s the smallest things—these simple gestures that say ‘thank you’ that can make the biggest difference in their lives,” she said.
Obama said that Joining Forces would continue no matter who holds the White House and the Center for a New American Security will help coordinate the effort.
President Obama, who also spoke during the event, said that his administration plans to implement close to 50 commitments to improve the lives of military families in a variety of areas, from improving education for children and spouses and fighting to end homelessness among veterans.
“But as we’ve said all along, this can’t be the work of government alone,” he said. “As Americans, we are at our best when we remember our obligations to each other. When we remember that the price of freedom cannot simply be paid by a select few.”